Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 5, 2006

Performance-based pay system moves forward at DHS

Filed under: DHS News,Organizational Issues — by Christian Beckner on April 5, 2006

From the Washington Post’s Federal Diary column today:

The Department of Homeland Security is moving ahead with its plan to change how it evaluates and pays employees, even as it tries to fend off unions in court.

The pay changes and the court case are separate issues, but the union litigation has altered the department’s timetable and injected some uncertainty into how far Homeland Security can go in changing some key workplace rules….

In keeping with a 2002 law, Homeland Security is designing a pay system that will provide employees with raises more closely tied to their occupations and geographic location. The best workers will also receive higher raises that reflect their job performance. Employees who are deemed unsatisfactory will be at risk of not getting a raise.

The new pay system, when in place, will cover as many as 85,000 civil service employees, with a substantial number in jobs related to law enforcement. One goal of the new system is to more rigorously link annual pay raises to job performance ratings.

The initial rollout will involve 18,000 to 20,000 employees who are not covered by union contracts. Under the plan, managers, supervisors and nonunion employees will move to a new pay system, featuring broad salary scales based on occupations, next January.

In the second phase, 60,000 to 65,000 employees, including most employees covered by union contracts, will convert to the new pay system in January 2008.

The author of the article, Stephen Barr, is having an online Q&A today at noon EST to discuss the article and the performance-based pay system.

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7 Comments »

508

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 5, 2006 @ 9:04 am

Is there a status on the lawsuit prohibiting implentation of this new system, or is it no longer moot? By the way as I learned in law school “moot” means arguable not “no-longer arguable.”

509

Comment by jbowen43

April 5, 2006 @ 11:48 am

This was the real reason Mr. Bush decided to support the creation of this agency. He discovered he could dis-enfranchise hundreds of thousands of Federal Employees: a consevative’s wet dream.

512

Comment by T.White

April 5, 2006 @ 12:21 pm

I don’t agree with the new pay system adjusting pay to the “geographic location”. Reason being I believe that people who live in a low income areas would or will not make a descent earn salary.

516

Comment by Billiebob Smith

April 5, 2006 @ 10:35 pm

This new pay for performance plan currently being instituted at the Department of Homeland Security (I hope they didn’t borrow that name from the Nazi’s) is another name for the “good old boy network.” Having spent 26 years in the federal system, both in supervisory and line positions, take issue with an agency that basically says ” to hell with them will do what we think is best.” Sounds a lot like someone I know, need I mention names. The problems with this type of system, is the agency doesn’t appear to be willing and open to employee concerns. I’m sure the elements in their rating standards will contain meaningless phrases such as; Is the employee patriotic, Does the employee denounce the principles of fairness, privacy and ignore the bill of rights, Does the employee adhere to the Doctrine of National Security at any costs, Can the employee infer innuendos concerning an individuals reputation and motives without having the facts, Does the employee understand the principle of “LIKE US” and those that aren’t are enemies of the state. What I’m getting at is the rating factors are very subjective and subjectivity doesn’t belong in a rating system. The standards held by the courts concerning rating factors indicate, if a performance element cannot be measured objectively, it doesn’t belong in the employees performance standards. Now of course when an agency advocates the employee should be subject only to a internal tribunal process, that should throw up Red Flags everywhere concerning the agencies true intentions regarding employee relations. Ultimately pay for performance will favor management and the favorites of the supervisor. It will neglect those who come and do a good job and go home at the end of the day. Currently the government has in place a rewards system for outstanding performance. Currently the government salary plan is quite fair and the pay is quite good. That should be incentive enough to do a good job. Their was a time when a simple “you did a good job” was reward enough for the employee

517

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 6, 2006 @ 1:43 am

It is interesting to note for the record that DHS stated publicly that it inherited 22 different pay and performance systems from its predecessor organizations. One of the reasons it needed a new system. It would be interesting to document when a standardized civil service system ended, that is a system with merit staffing (usually requiring testing for admission) and insulated from arbitrary actions by political managers. In my opinion, Jimmy Carter ended the old civil service system when he proposed the SES system which theoretically was a man (or woman) in rank system that was to be like a rank in the military. A Captain was a Captain was a Captain.
The old super-grades buckled under the pressure of knowing they could be geographically reassigned arbitrarily. The result was the GS or GM 15’s were the top of the old civil service. I still think that a 5 year contract term overlapping a Presidential election might do for most of the civil service jobs. The old heirarchial management system, the more persons you managed, the more you were paid (and achieved rank)is long gone. It is a technicl world and teams are needed. But employees and managers need to have the certainty of a term certain so they can plan their lives. The new system will never work because even the old system has been thoroughly politicized.

530

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 7, 2006 @ 9:39 am

Today’s Washington Post describes the oral argument in the Court of Appeals on the new system. Today being April 7th.

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